- Confronting Empire
- The algebra of infinite justice
I've been asked to speak about "How to confront Empire?"
It' s a huge question, and I have no easy answers.
When we speak of confronting "Empire," we need to identify
what "Empire" means. Does it mean the U.S. Government
(and its European satellites), the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and multinational corporations?
Or is it something more than that?
In many countries, Empire has sprouted other subsidiary heads, some
dangerous byproducts - nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism and,
of course terrorism. All these march arm in arm with the project
of corporate globalization.
Let me illustrate what I mean. India - the world's biggest democracy
- is currently at the forefront of the corporate globalization project.
Its "market" of one billion people is being prized open
by the WTO. Corporatization and Privatization are being welcomed
by the Government and the Indian elite.
It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister, the Home Minister,
the Disinvestment Minister - the men who signed the deal with Enron
in India, the men who are selling the country's infrastructure to
corporate multinationals, the men who want to privatize water, electricity,
oil, coal, steel, health, education and telecommunication - are
all members or admirers of the RSS. The RSS is a right wing, ultra-nationalist
Hindu guild which has openly admired Hitler and his methods.
The dismantling of democracy is proceeding with the speed and efficiency
of a Structural Adjustment Program. While the project of corporate
globalization rips through people's lives in India, massive privatization,
and labor "reforms" are pushing people off their land
and out of their jobs. Hundreds of impoverished farmers are committing
suicide by consuming pesticide. Reports of starvation deaths are
coming in from all over the country.
While the elite journeys to its imaginary destination somewhere
near the top of the world, the dispossessed are spiraling downwards
into crime and chaos. This climate of frustration and national disillusionment
is the perfect breeding ground, history tells us, for fascism.
The two arms of the Indian Government have evolved the perfect pincer
action. While one arm is busy selling India off in chunks, the other,
to divert attention, is orchestrating a howling, baying chorus of
Hindu nationalism and religious fascism. It is conducting nuclear
tests, rewriting history books, burning churches, and demolishing
mosques. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties
and human rights, the definition of who is an Indian citizen and
who is not, particularly with regard to religious minorities, is
becoming common practice now.
Last March, in the state of Gujarat, two thousand Muslims were butchered
in a State-sponsored pogrom. Muslim women were specially targeted.
They were stripped, and gang-raped, before being burned alive. Arsonists
burned and looted shops, homes, textiles mills, and mosques.
More than a hundred and fifty thousand Muslims have been driven
from their homes. The economic base of the Muslim community has
While Gujarat burned, the Indian Prime Minister was on MTV promoting
his new poems. In January this year, the Government that orchestrated
the killing was voted back into office with a comfortable majority.
Nobody has been punished for the genocide. Narendra Modi, architect
of the pogrom, proud member of the RSS, has embarked on his second
term as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. If he were Saddam Hussein,
of course each atrocity would have been on CNN. But since he's not
- and since the Indian "market" is open to global investors
- the massacre is not even an embarrassing inconvenience.
There are more than one hundred million Muslims in India. A time
bomb is ticking in our ancient land.
All this to say that it is a myth that the free market breaks down
national barriers. The free market does not threaten national sovereignty,
it undermines democracy.
As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the fight
to corner resources is intensifying. To push through their "sweetheart
deals," to corporatize the crops we grow, the water we drink,
the air we breathe, and the dreams we dream, corporate globalization
needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian
governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reforms
and quell the mutinies.
Corporate Globalization - or shall we call it by its name? - Imperialism
- needs a press that pretends to be free. It needs courts that pretend
to dispense justice.
Meanwhile, the countries of the North harden their borders and stockpile
weapons of mass destruction. After all they have to make sure that
it's only money, goods, patents and services that are globalized.
Not the free movement of people. Not a respect for human rights.
Not international treaties on racial discrimination or chemical
and nuclear weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change,
or - god forbid - justice.
So this - all this - is "empire." This loyal confederation,
this obscene accumulation of power, this greatly increased distance
between those who make the decisions and those who have to suffer
Our fight, our goal, our vision of Another World must be to eliminate
So how do we resist "Empire"?
The good news is that we're not doing too badly. There have been
major victories. Here in Latin America you have had so many - in
Bolivia, you have Cochabamba. In Peru, there was the uprising in
Arequipa, In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is holding on, despite
the U.S. government's best efforts.
And the world's gaze is on the people of Argentina, who are trying
to refashion a country from the ashes of the havoc wrought by the
In India the movement against corporate globalization is gathering
momentum and is poised to become the only real political force to
counter religious fascism.
As for corporate globalization's glittering ambassadors - Enron,
Bechtel, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson - where were they last year,
and where are they now?
And of course here in Brazil we must ask .who was the president
last year, and who is it now?
Still . many of us have dark moments of hopelessness and despair.
We know that under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terrorism,
the men in suits are hard at work.
While bombs rain down on us, and cruise missiles skid across the
skies, we know that contracts are being signed, patents are being
registered, oil pipelines are being laid, natural resources are
being plundered, water is being privatized, and George Bush is planning
to go to war against Iraq.
If we look at this conflict as a straightforward eye-ball to eye-ball
confrontation between "Empire" and those of us who are
resisting it, it might seem that we are losing.
But there is another way of looking at it. We, all of us gathered
here, have, each in our own way, laid siege to "Empire."
We may not have stopped it in its tracks - yet - but we have stripped
it down. We have made it drop its mask. We have forced it into the
open. It now stands before us on the world's stage in all it's brutish,
Empire may well go to war, but it's out in the open now - too ugly
to behold its own reflection. Too ugly even to rally its own people.
It won't be long before the majority of American people become our
Only a few days ago in Washington, a quarter of a million people
marched against the war on Iraq. Each month, the protest is gathering
Before September 11th 2001 America had a secret history. Secret
especially from its own people. But now America's secrets are history,
and its history is public knowledge. It's street talk.
Today, we know that every argument that is being used to escalate
the war against Iraq is a lie. The most ludicrous of them being
the U.S. Government's deep commitment to bring democracy to Iraq.
Killing people to save them from dictatorship or ideological corruption
is, of course, an old U.S. government sport. Here in Latin America,
you know that better than most.
Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, a murderer
(whose worst excesses were supported by the governments of the United
States and Great Britain). There's no doubt that Iraqis would be
better off without him.
But, then, the whole world would be better off without a certain
Mr. Bush. In fact, he is far more dangerous than Saddam Hussein.
So, should we bomb Bush out of the White House?
It's more than clear that Bush is determined to go to war against
Iraq, regardless of the facts - and regardless of international
In its recruitment drive for allies, The United States is prepared
to invent facts.
The charade with weapons inspectors is the U.S. government's offensive,
insulting concession to some twisted form of international etiquette.
It's like leaving the "doggie door" open for last minute
"allies" or maybe the United Nations to crawl through.
But for all intents and purposes, the New War against Iraq has begun.
What can we do?
We can hone our memory, we can learn from our history. We can continue
to build public opinion until it becomes a deafening roar.
We can turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl of the U.S. government's
We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair - and their allies - for
the cowardly baby killers, water poisoners, and pusillanimous long-distance
bombers that they are.
We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million different ways.
In other words, we can come up with a million ways of becoming a
collective pain in the ass.
When George Bush says "you're either with us, or you are with
the terrorists" we can say "No thank you." We can
let him know that the people of the world do not need to choose
between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs.
Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege
to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our
art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance,
our sheer relentlessness - and our ability to tell our own stories.
Stories that are different from the ones we're being brainwashed
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what
they are selling - their ideas, their version of history, their
wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than
we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet
day, I can hear her breathing.
Porto Alegre, Brazil
January 27, 2003
THE ALGEBRA OF INFINITE JUSTICE
In the aftermath of the unconscionable September 11 suicide attacks
on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre, an American newscaster
said: "Good and evil rarely manifest themselves as clearly
as they did last Tuesday. People who we don't know massacred people
who we do. And they did so with contemptuous glee." Then he
broke down and wept.
Here's the rub: America is at war against people it doesn't know,
because they don't appear much on TV. Before it has properly identified
or even begun to comprehend the nature of its enemy, the US government
has, in a rush of publicity and embarrassing rhetoric, cobbled together
an "international coalition against terror", mobilised
its army, its air force, its navy and its media, and committed them
The trouble is that once Amer ica goes off to war, it can't very
well return without having fought one. If it doesn't find its enemy,
for the sake of the enraged folks back home, it will have to manufacture
one. Once war begins, it will develop a momentum, a logic and a
justification of its own, and we'll lose sight of why it's being
fought in the first place.
What we're witnessing here is the spectacle of the world's most
powerful country reaching reflexively, angrily, for an old instinct
to fight a new kind of war. Suddenly, when it comes to defending
itself, America's streamlined warships, cruise missiles and F-16
jets look like obsolete, lumbering things. As deterrence, its arsenal
of nuclear bombs is no longer worth its weight in scrap. Box-cutters,
penknives, and cold anger are the weapons with which the wars of
the new century will be waged. Anger is the lock pick. It slips
through customs unnoticed. Doesn't show up in baggage checks.
Who is America fighting? On September 20, the FBI said that it had
doubts about the identities of some of the hijackers. On the same
day President George Bush said, "We know exactly who these
people are and which governments are supporting them." It sounds
as though the president knows something that the FBI and the American
In his September 20 address to the US Congress, President Bush called
the enemies of America "enemies of freedom". "Americans
are asking, 'Why do they hate us?' " he said. "They hate
our freedoms - our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our
freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
People are being asked to make two leaps of faith here. First, to
assume that The Enemy is who the US government says it is, even
though it has no substantial evidence to support that claim. And
second, to assume that The Enemy's motives are what the US government
says they are, and there's nothing to support that either.
For strategic, military and economic reasons, it is vital for the
US government to persuade its public that their commitment to freedom
and democracy and the American Way of Life is under attack. In the
current atmosphere of grief, outrage and anger, it's an easy notion
to peddle. However, if that were true, it's reasonable to wonder
why the symbols of America's economic and military dominance - the
World Trade Centre and the Pentagon - were chosen as the targets
of the attacks. Why not the Statue of Liberty? Could it be that
the stygian anger that led to the attacks has its taproot not in
American freedom and democracy, but in the US government's record
of commitment and support to exactly the opposite things - to military
and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious
bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)? It must be
hard for ordinary Americans, so recently bereaved, to look up at
the world with their eyes full of tears and encounter what might
appear to them to be indifference. It isn't indifference. It's just
augury. An absence of surprise. The tired wisdom of knowing that
what goes around eventually comes around. American people ought
to know that it is not them but their government's policies that
are so hated. They can't possibly doubt that they themselves, their
extraordinary musicians, their writers, their actors, their spectacular
sportsmen and their cinema, are universally welcomed. All of us
have been moved by the courage and grace shown by firefighters,
rescue workers and ordinary office staff in the days since the attacks.
America's grief at what happened has been immense and immensely
public. It would be grotesque to expect it to calibrate or modulate
its anguish. However, it will be a pity if, instead of using this
as an opportunity to try to understand why September 11 happened,
Americans use it as an opportunity to usurp the whole world's sorrow
to mourn and avenge only their own. Because then it falls to the
rest of us to ask the hard questions and say the harsh things. And
for our pains, for our bad timing, we will be disliked, ignored
and perhaps eventually silenced.
The world will probably never know what motivated those particular
hijackers who flew planes into those particular American buildings.
They were not glory boys. They left no suicide notes, no political
messages; no organisation has claimed credit for the attacks. All
we know is that their belief in what they were doing outstripped
the natural human instinct for survival, or any desire to be remembered.
It's almost as though they could not scale down the enormity of
their rage to anything smaller than their deeds. And what they did
has blown a hole in the world as we knew it. In the absence of information,
politicians, political commentators and writers (like myself) will
invest the act with their own politics, with their own interpretations.
This speculation, this analysis of the political climate in which
the attacks took place, can only be a good thing.
But war is looming large. Whatever remains to be said must be said
quickly. Before America places itself at the helm of the "international
coalition against terror", before it invites (and coerces)
countries to actively participate in its almost godlike mission
- called Operation Infinite Justice until it was pointed out that
this could be seen as an insult to Muslims, who believe that only
Allah can mete out infinite justice, and was renamed Operation Enduring
Freedom- it would help if some small clarifications are made. For
example, Infinite Justice/Enduring Freedom for whom? Is this America's
war against terror in America or against terror in general? What
exactly is being avenged here? Is it the tragic loss of almost 7,000
lives, the gutting of five million square feet of office space in
Manhattan, the destruction of a section of the Pentagon, the loss
of several hundreds of thousands of jobs, the bankruptcy of some
airline companies and the dip in the New York Stock Exchange? Or
is it more than that? In 1996, Madeleine Albright, then the US secretary
of state, was asked on national television what she felt about the
fact that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of US economic
sanctions. She replied that it was "a very hard choice",
but that, all things considered, "we think the price is worth
it". Albright never lost her job for saying this. She continued
to travel the world representing the views and aspirations of the
US government. More pertinently, the sanctions against Iraq remain
in place. Children continue to die.
So here we have it. The equivocating distinction between civilisation
and savagery, between the "massacre of innocent people"
or, if you like, "a clash of civilisations" and "collateral
damage". The sophistry and fastidious algebra of infinite justice.
How many dead Iraqis will it take to make the world a better place?
How many dead Afghans for every dead American? How many dead women
and children for every dead man? How many dead mojahedin for each
dead investment banker? As we watch mesmerised, Operation Enduring
Freedom unfolds on TV monitors across the world. A coalition of
the world's superpowers is closing in on Afghanistan, one of the
poorest, most ravaged, war-torn countries in the world, whose ruling
Taliban government is sheltering Osama bin Laden, the man being
held responsible for the September 11 attacks.
The only thing in Afghanistan that could possibly count as collateral
value is its citizenry. (Among them, half a million maimed orphans.There
are accounts of hobbling stampedes that occur when artificial limbs
are airdropped into remote, inaccessible villages.) Afghanistan's
economy is in a shambles. In fact, the problem for an invading army
is that Afghanistan has no conventional coordinates or signposts
to plot on a military map - no big cities, no highways, no industrial
complexes, no water treatment plants. Farms have been turned into
mass graves. The countryside is littered with land mines - 10 million
is the most recent estimate. The American army would first have
to clear the mines and build roads in order to take its soldiers
Fearing an attack from America, one million citizens have fled from
their homes and arrived at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The UN estimates that there are eight million Afghan citizens who
need emergency aid. As supplies run out - food and aid agencies
have been asked to leave - the BBC reports that one of the worst
humanitarian disasters of recent times has begun to unfold. Witness
the infinite justice of the new century. Civilians starving to death
while they're waiting to be killed.
In America there has been rough talk of "bombing Afghanistan
back to the stone age". Someone please break the news that
Afghanistan is already there. And if it's any consolation, America
played no small part in helping it on its way. The American people
may be a little fuzzy about where exactly Afghanistan is (we hear
reports that there's a run on maps of the country), but the US government
and Afghanistan are old friends.
In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA and Pakistan's
ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) launched the largest covert operation
in the history of the CIA. Their purpose was to harness the energy
of Afghan resistance to the Soviets and expand it into a holy war,
an Islamic jihad, which would turn Muslim countries within the Soviet
Union against the communist regime and eventually destabilise it.
When it began, it was meant to be the Soviet Union's Vietnam. It
turned out to be much more than that.
Over the years, through the ISI, the CIA funded and recruited almost
100,000 radical mojahedin from 40 Islamic countries as soldiers
for America's proxy war. The rank and file of the mojahedin were
unaware that their jihad was actually being fought on behalf of
Uncle Sam. (The irony is that America was equally unaware that it
was financing a future war against itself.)
In 1989, after being bloodied by 10 years of relentless conflict,
the Russians withdrew, leaving behind a civilisation reduced to
rubble. Civil war in Afghanistan raged on. The jihad spread to Chechnya,
Kosovo and eventually to Kashmir. The CIA continued to pour in money
and military equipment, but the overheads had become immense, and
more money was needed. The mojahedin ordered farmers to plant opium
as a "revolutionary tax". The ISI set up hundreds of heroin
laboratories across Afghanistan. Within two years of the CIA's arrival,
the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland had become the biggest producer
of heroin in the world, and the single biggest source of the heroin
on American streets. The annual profits, said to be between $100bn
and $200bn, were ploughed back into training and arming militants.
In 1995, the Taliban - then a marginal sect of dangerous, hardline
fundamentalists - fought its way to power in Afghanistan. It was
funded by the ISI, that old cohort of the CIA, and supported by
many political parties in Pakistan. The Taliban unleashed a regime
of terror. Its first victims were its own people, particularly women.
It closed down girls' schools, dismissed women from government jobs,
and enforced sharia laws under which women deemed to be "immoral"
are stoned to death, and widows guilty of being adulterous are buried
alive. Given the Taliban government's human rights track record,
it seems unlikely that it will in any way be intimidated or swerved
from its purpose by the prospect of war, or the threat to the lives
of its civilians.
After all that has happened, can there be anything more ironic than
Russia and America joining hands to re-destroy Afghanistan? The
question is, can you destroy destruction? Dropping more bombs on
Afghanistan will only shuffle the rubble, scramble some old graves
and disturb the dead.
The desolate landscape of Afghanistan was the burial ground of Soviet
communism and the springboard of a unipolar world dominated by America.
It made the space for neocapitalism and corporate globalisation,
again dominated by America. And now Afghanistan is poised to become
the graveyard for the unlikely soldiers who fought and won this
war for America.
And what of America's trusted ally? Pakistan too has suffered enormously.
The US government has not been shy of supporting military dictators
wh have blocked the idea of democracy from taking root in the country.
Before the CIA arrived, there was a small rural market for opium
in Pakistan. Between 1979 and 1985, the number of heroin addicts
grew from zero to one-and-a-half million. Even before September
11, there were three million Afghan refugees living in tented camps
along the border. Pakistan's economy is crumbling. Sectarian violence,
globalisation's structural adjustment programmes and drug lords
are tearing the country to pieces. Set up to fight the Soviets,
the terrorist training centres and madrasahs, sown like dragon's
teeth across the country, produced fundamentalists with tremendous
popular appeal within Pakistan itself. The Taliban, which the Pakistan
government has sup ported, funded and propped up for years, has
material and strategic alliances with Pakistan's own political parties.
Now the US government is asking (asking?) Pakistan to garotte the
pet it has hand-reared in its backyard for so many years. President
Musharraf, having pledged his support to the US, could well find
he has something resembling civil war on his hands.
India, thanks in part to its geography, and in part to the vision
of its former leaders, has so far been fortunate enough to be left
out of this Great Game. Had it been drawn in, it's more than likely
that our democracy, such as it is, would not have survived. Today,
as some of us watch in horror, the Indian government is furiously
gyrating its hips, begging the US to set up its base in India rather
than Pakistan. Having had this ringside view of Pakistan's sordid
fate, it isn't just odd, it's unthinkable, that India should want
to do this. Any third world country with a fragile economy and a
complex social base should know by now that to invite a superpower
such as America in (whether it says it's staying or just passing
through) would be like inviting a brick to drop through your windscreen.
Operation Enduring Freedom is ostensibly being fought to uphold
the American Way of Life. It'll probably end up undermining it completely.
It will spawn more anger and more terror across the world. For ordinary
people in America, it will mean lives lived in a climate of sickening
uncertainty: will my child be safe in school? Will there be nerve
gas in the subway? A bomb in the cinema hall? Will my love come
home tonight? There have been warnings about the possibility of
biological warfare - smallpox, bubonic plague, anthrax - the deadly
payload of innocuous crop-duster aircraft. Being picked off a few
at a time may end up being worse than being annihilated all at once
by a nuclear bomb.
The US government, and no doubt governments all over the world,
will use the climate of war as an excuse to curtail civil liberties,
deny free speech, lay off workers, harass ethnic and religious minorities,
cut back on public spending and divert huge amounts of money to
the defence industry. To what purpose? President Bush can no more
"rid the world of evil-doers" than he can stock it with
saints. It's absurd for the US government to even toy with the notion
that it can stamp out terrorism with more violence and oppression.
Terrorism is the symptom, not the disease. Terrorism has no country.
It's transnational, as global an enterprise as Coke or Pepsi or
Nike. At the first sign of trouble, terrorists can pull up stakes
and move their "factories" from country to country in
search of a better deal. Just like the multi-nationals.
Terrorism as a phenomenon may never go away. But if it is to be
contained, the first step is for America to at least acknowledge
that it shares the planet with other nations, with other human beings
who, even if they are not on TV, have loves and griefs and stories
and songs and sorrows and, for heaven's sake, rights. Instead, when
Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, was asked what he would
call a victory in America's new war, he said that if he could convince
the world that Americans must be allowed to continue with their
way of life, he would consider it a victory.
The September 11 attacks were a monstrous calling card from a world
gone horribly wrong. The message may have been written by Bin Laden
(who knows?) and delivered by his couriers, but it could well have
been signed by the ghosts of the victims of America's old wars.
The millions killed in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, the 17,500 killed
when Israel - backed by the US - invaded Lebanon in 1982, the 200,000
Iraqis killed in Operation Desert Storm, the thousands of Palestinians
who have died fighting Israel's occupation of the West Bank. And
the millions who died, in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua,
El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama, at the hands of all
the terrorists, dictators and genocidists whom the American government
supported, trained, bankrolled and supplied with arms. And this
is far from being a comprehensive list.
For a country involved in so much warfare and conflict, the American
people have been extremely fortunate. The strikes on September 11
were only the second on American soil in over a century. The first
was Pearl Harbour. The reprisal for this took a long route, but
ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This time the world waits with
bated breath for the horrors to come.
Someone recently said that if Osama bin Laden didn't exist, America
would have had to invent him. But, in a way, America did invent
him. He was among the jihadis who moved to Afghanistan in 1979 when
the CIA commenced its operations there. Bin Laden has the distinction
of being created by the CIA and wanted by the FBI. In the course
of a fortnight he has been promoted from suspect to prime suspect
and then, despite the lack of any real evidence, straight up the
charts to being "wanted dead or alive".
From all accounts, it will be impossible to produce evidence (of
the sort that would stand scrutiny in a court of law) to link Bin
Laden to the September 11 attacks. So far, it appears that the most
incriminating piece of evidence against him is the fact that he
has not condemned them.
From what is known about the location of Bin Laden and the living
conditions in which he operates, it's entirely possible that he
did not personally plan and carry out the attacks - that he is the
inspirational figure, "the CEO of the holding company".
The Taliban's response to US demands for the extradition of Bin
Laden has been uncharacteristically reasonable: produce the evidence,
then we'll hand him over. President Bush's response is that the
demand is "non-negotiable".
(While talks are on for the extradition of CEOs - can India put
in a side request for the extradition of Warren Anderson of the
US? He was the chairman of Union Carbide, responsible for the Bhopal
gas leak that killed 16,000 people in 1984. We have collated the
necessary evidence. It's all in the files. Could we have him, please?)
But who is Osama bin Laden really? Let me rephrase that. What is
Osama bin Laden? He's America's family secret. He is the American
president's dark doppelgänger. The savage twin of all that
purports to be beautiful and civilised. He has been sculpted from
the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America's foreign policy:
its gunboat diplomacy, its nuclear arsenal, its vulgarly stated
policy of "full-spectrum dominance", its chilling disregard
for non-American lives, its barbarous military interventions, its
support for despotic and dictatorial regimes, its merciless economic
agenda that has munched through the economies of poor countries
like a cloud of locusts. Its marauding multinationals who are taking
over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink,
the thoughts we think. Now that the family secret has been spilled,
the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable.
Their guns, bombs, money and drugs have been going around in the
loop for a while. (The Stinger missiles that will greet US helicopters
were supplied by the CIA. The heroin used by America's drug addicts
comes from Afghanistan. The Bush administration recently gave Afghanistan
a $43m subsidy for a "war on drugs"....)
Now Bush and Bin Laden have even begun to borrow each other's rhetoric.
Each refers to the other as "the head of the snake". Both
invoke God and use the loose millenarian currency of good and evil
as their terms of reference. Both are engaged in unequivocal political
crimes. Both are dangerously armed - one with the nuclear arsenal
of the obscenely powerful, the other with the incandescent, destructive
power of the utterly hopeless. The fireball and the ice pick. The
bludgeon and the axe. The important thing to keep in mind is that
neither is an acceptable alternative to the other.
President Bush's ultimatum to the people of the world - "If
you're not with us, you're against us" - is a piece of presumptuous
arrogance. It's not a choice that people want to, need to, or should
have to make.
Arundhati Roy / The Greater Common Good
Arundhati Roy - Unofficial Website
Arundhati Roy - South Asian Women Writers